Campbell enters ‘no contest’ plea; disposition set for July 2
Mason Campbell, the 12-year-old boy accused of shooting two classmates at Berrendo Middle School, changed his plea from “not guilty” to “no contest” on Friday morning at the Chaves County Courthouse in Roswell.
Through his attorneys, Campbell offered an apology to the victims of the shooting during the plea hearing.
“Mason accepts full responsibility for his actions and does apologize to his victims and their families,” said defense attorney Jason Bowles, of the Bowles Law Firm in Albuquerque.
While changing his plea to “no contest,” Campbell calmly answered “yes” as Judge Freddie Romero questioned him about whether he understood what the plea change meant, and if Campbell understood that he was giving up his constitutional rights by changing his plea.
A date of July 2 was set for disposition of the case, which is the juvenile version of sentencing. Romero will decide Campbell’s fate after a hearing at which the shooting victims and their families are expected to testify.
Romero told Campbell that disposition options range from supervised release to incarceration until the age of 21.
Police say Campbell, armed with a shotgun, opened fire at the middle school on Jan. 14, seriously wounding two students before a staff member persuaded him to put down the firearm.
Wounded were 13-year-old Kendal Sanders and 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez.
Both children survived, but still suffer from their wounds.
Nickie Portio, mother of Kendal, and her attorney, Tamara Brock Segal, from the law firm Brock & Goetzmann of Dallas, said no civil lawsuit has been filed by them yet.
“Kendal had to have surgery to repair her heart, and she still has pellets in her body,” her attorney said.
Portio said she accepts Campbell’s apology, but added that he needs to be incarcerated. “He did commit a crime, and he needs to feel the consequences of his actions.”
Campbell’s attorneys, Bowles and Robert Gorence of Gorence & Oliveros in Albuquerque, released a statement on behalf of the Campbell and Bowles families.
“The question of what happened on Jan. 14, 2014, at Berrendo Middle School was never in dispute,” Gorence said. “The questions relating to why and what are Mason’s mental status are still being analyzed by medical professionals. The plea today was important so that the victims are not put through further trauma, for Mason to accept responsibility, and to continue the healing process for all.”
Gorence said the no contest plea acknowledges the limitations in decision-making of an immature brain, and it maximizes options for Kendal and Nathaniel.
“We wish everyone continues their prayers for Nathaniel and Kendal, and for the son we love, Mason,” Gorence said.
Special Prosecutor Matt Chandler said the state would seek the maximum punishment for Campbell.
“The goal is for the child to be held in custody until the age of 21,” Chandler said. “That amount of time would give Mason a chance for complete rehabilitation and would give the families time to heal.”